Revue de neuropsychologie


COMT single nucleotide polymorphism influence on working memory and its aging Volume 6, issue 4, Octobre-Novembre-Décembre 2014


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1 Université de Liège,
Centre de recherche du cyclotron,
allée du 6-Août n° 8 (B30), 4000 Liège, Belgique
2 Université de Liège,
Département de psychologie : cognition et comportement,
, Unité de neuropsychologie,
boulevard du Rectorat 3 (B33), 4000 Liège, Belgique
3 Fonds national de la recherche scientifique (FRS-FNRS), Rue d’Egmont 5,
1000 Bruxelles,
* Correspondance.

This review aims to synthesize the influence of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val108/158met single nucleotide polymorphism on the age-related working memory decline (and more particularly on the executive aspects). Involved in the catabolism of dopamine within the prefrontal cortex, the COMT polymorphism plays a central role in the efficiency of executive control in working memory. Indeed, several studies highlighted its influence in young adult populations, suggesting a phenotypic advantage of the met allele of the COMT gene in executive tasks requiring stability of cognitive representations. As healthy aging was associated to a decline of dopamine availability in frontal areas, the COMT polymorphism could also be a relevant candidate to understand the age-related cognitive decline in working memory/executive functions. As expected, a positive effect of met polymorphism on these cognitive processes was observed in aging population. Moreover, cerebral and age-related compensatory activity related to working memory and executive tasks are also modulated by the COMT polymorphism, with a more efficient recruitment of brain areas in older carriers of the met allele. These results clearly highlight the importance of behavioral genetic and neuroimaging genetic approaches to improve our understanding of cognitive and cerebral changes in normal aging, and more particularly to better comprehend the important heterogeneity of performance observed in that population.